Travel photos are a staple of dating profiles: What better way to demonstrate a sense of adventure, cultured outlook and joie de vivre?
Dating sites often suggest that travel photos are an ideal way for users to showcase their interests and appeal to potential matches. OkCupid says the topic is a hot one, with nearly 10 million travel mentions on dating profiles in the past two years.
And the dating app Hinge said in a 2017 report that even though just 3.4 per cent of pictures were classified as travel photos, they got 30 per cent more likes than images without location tags.
"Travel photos are typically great conversation-starters," Carlos Robles, chief customer officer at eHarmony, said in an email. "They put the member and their matches in a position to engage with a relatable topic, further increasing the likelihood of a response. From there on out, it's easy to continue the connection by talking about their most memorable vacations, future travel, and bucket-list destinations."
But, experts warn, it's easy to send the wrong message with pictures of your last trip. Do you look sloppy? Is the scenery hogging center stage? Is your pose at the Leaning Tower of Pisa revealing that you don't have an original bone in your body?
"Are you telling the story of you that you want to tell?" asks Rachel DeAlto, chief dating expert at the online dating service Match.
Case in point: the posing-with-a-tiger photo, which DeAlto says she sees on profiles frequently. The message it could send is: I, a person who is seeking the companionship of another human, don't care much about how this wild animal has been treated in order to get it tame enough not to kill me.
The image became so ubiquitous that it inspired a website, Tigers of Tinder, and a Tumblr, Tinder Guys With Tigers. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sent a letter asking for a ban. And in summer of 2017, Tinder published a blog post urging members to take their tiger selfies down.
"Posing next to a king of the jungle doesn't make you one," it begins, then goes on to warn that the tigers in those photos have often been taken advantage of and ripped from their natural habitat. Tinder suggested substituting photos showing users planting a tree, walking to work, volunteering at an animal shelter, eating a vegan meal or "conserving water by drinking rosé."
"We promise that your profile will be just as fierce without the drugged animals," the post said.
Sometimes, a destination gets so popular that photos of it become a cliche from overuse.
"A lot of women like to get to the top of Machu Picchu and take a picture," DeAlto says.
Other overused landmarks include the Eiffel Tower, Brooklyn Bridge and the sign welcoming people to Las Vegas, says Janell O'Leary, founder and managing director of the dating consultancy Elite Dating Managers.
O'Leary recommends that profiles include one travel photo, but, she said, too often she sees profiles, typically men's, that are solely made up of pictures from vacations. It's a complaint she hears often from women, who say they're turned off by profiles that seem dedicated to showing off.
"It feels, like, really corny, and I don't know if pretentious is the right word, but it just feels like it's in really bad taste," she says. "And usually, these get skipped over really fast."
The key, O'Leary says, is for travel photos to reflect someone's actual interests, personality and place in life, "instead of the one photo you took scuba diving and you never went scuba diving again."
Dating experts offered other best practices for avoiding travel cliches on dating sites.
"Don't say 'I love to travel,'" O'Leary says. She says instead, say what big trip you're planning next, or where you just returned from and what you were doing there.
In captions, include personal or historical significance of places you visited, or mention something funny that happened or how many times you've visited, eHarmony's Robles said in an email.
Make yourself the focus:
Using some faraway location as a beautiful background: great. Letting it overshadow you: not great.
O'Leary says she doesn't usually encourage using landmarks at all in profile photos.
"I would not think of the place," she says, to evaluate this prominent image. "I would think of how you look. Are you smiling? Do you have a weird reflection off your forehead? Are you dressed nice, do you have good posture?"
Keep it recent:
Don't use travel photos that are more than a year old.
"We know visiting Ibiza or Machu Picchu doesn't happen every year," Robles said. "But it's best to speak about this trip in your profile content and save the photos associated with the trip for future messaging."
Avoid corniness (unless you are a true cornball and want the same):
DeAlto says the best approach is to include photos that could appeal to a wide range of potential matches. Unless, that is, users want to search within a much smaller pool.
Cheesy photos - pretending to hold up the Leaning Tower of Pisa, for example, or touching the top of the pyramids in Egypt - reveal a certain sensibility.
"If corny is who you are, and that's what you want to embrace, go for it," DeAlto says. "If you're doing it by accident, this is something we can work through."
Similarly, if people have serious travel interests and only want to meet people who share those, it makes sense to illustrate that in photos. But if that personal passion is not a deal-breaker, maybe save the talk about that for later.
"You don't want to eliminate people just because you have 17 pictures of Disney - unless you really only want to date somebody who's obsessed with Disney," DeAlto says. "Then, go for it."
Get that glow:
Timing your photo session to take advantage of the most flattering light can make a difference.
"The best vacation photos to add to your dating profiles are ones that are taken late in the afternoon," Melissa Hobley, global chief marketing officer at OkCupid, said in an email. "People love that 'golden hour' light, and we've actually found that OkCupid daters with photos taken at that time get more likes."
Ditch the sunglasses:
Want a date? Gotta show your face - sans shades.
"Unless you're legitimately staring into the face of the sun, it doesn't work in profile pictures," DeAlto says.
Lose the ex:
You've probably already lost the ex in real life if you're on a dating site. It's important to get rid of the photos that include them, too.
"Avoid uploading photos that are clearly cropped - or even worse, have an emoji or sticker over a face," Robles said. "It's not the greatest conversation-starter when you have to explain who was cropped out. It's good practice to also take some solo shots while on vacation, regardless of who are your traveling with."
Stay out of the restroom:
The world is a big, beautiful place, full of profile-photo-worthy vistas. Those vistas do not include bathroom selfies.
"Once a toilet's involved, it's just not working," DeAlto says.